Google tries to explain why its OK to tap your browser history to show you ads

google transparencyWe recently got a sneak peak at the Gmail redesign, which has begun rolling out to users. And in addition to sleek new features like improved search and customization options, we also noticed a new ad format popping up below your messages.

Google is no stranger to user discontent over its privacy and ad policies, and that’s why these marketing campaigns will include a “Why these ads?” link. In the name of transparency, Google explained in a blog post that it will offer insight behind these targeted advertisements.

According to Google, the ads you see in Gmail are based on both recent search history (say for the past week you’ve been looking up vacation rentals) as well as what you’re currently researching within a single browser session (Googling some place to eat dinner). They also take into account your location and language choices to even further narrow the demographic you’re in. And this is nothing new: Google’s been using these methods for predictive ads for years, now they are just getting some prime Gmail real estate and offering instant explanation for users.

If you want, you can tinker with what ads you’re seeing via the Ad Preferences Manager.

While this isn’t a new practice, it’s a controversial one. Consumers and privacy advocates are justifiably unnerved by the lengths to which Google is tracking our Internet activity, and using it for profit. Make no mistake, Google is an advertising company, and these types of user profiling techniques are responsible for its bread and butter.

It’s easy to put all this into Google’s context: It wants to bring you the ads you want to see, not some drivel that you would never be interested in. But you don’t have to read between the lines to know that this means Google is taking into account what you do on the Internet and turning that into profitable ad space. To Google’s credit, reminding users about Ads Preferences Manger isn’t exactly in the company’s best interest, since it includes the ability to opt-out of personalized ads entirely. 

Emerging Tech

Japanese taxis will use facial recognition to target you with ads as you ride

A Japanese startup is trying to reinvent in-taxi advertising by using facial recognition technology to identify the key characteristics of riders and then presenting them with appropriate ads.

We tried all the latest and greatest smartphones to find the best of 2019

Smartphones are perhaps the most important and personal piece of tech on the planet. That’s why it’s important to pick the best phone for your individual needs. Here are the best smartphones you can buy.
Home Theater

Looking to cut cable? Here’s everything you need to know about Pluto TV

Pluto TV offers plenty of entertainment in a fashion similar to live internet TV services, only at no cost — you don’t even need to register. Too good to be true? Here’s everything you need to know.
Home Theater

From the Roku Ultra to the Fire TV Cube, these are the best streaming devices

There are more options for media streamers than ever, so it’s difficult to pick the best option. But that’s why we're here. Our curated list of the best streaming devices will get you online in no time.
Social Media

How to protect yourself from GoFundMe scams before donating

Can you spot a GoFundMe scam? While the fundraising platform says scams make up less than a tenth of one percent of campaigns, some do try to take advantages of others' charity -- like a case last year that made national news.

House votes to restore net neutrality rules, but effort faces long odds

The U.S. House of Representatives has approved the Save the Internet Act, a measure intended to restore net neutrality rules that were repealed in 2017 by the Federal Communications Commission.

The FCC and White House want to bring high-speed internet to rural areas

The FCC and the White House unveiled new initiatives to bring high-speed internet to rural areas, including $20.4 billion in incentives to companies to build infrastructure. The FCC also announced ways to speed up the rollout of 5G.

Search all of Craigslist at once with these great tools on web and mobile

Not finding what you need in your local area? Craigslist can be great for finding goods and services from further afield too. All you need do is learn these tips for how to search all of Craigslist at once.

Internet Explorer zero-day exploit makes files vulnerable to hacks on Windows PCs

Evidence of an Internet Explorer zero-day exploit capable of letting hackers steal files from Windows PCs was published online by a security researcher who also claims Microsoft knew of the vulnerability and opted not to patch it.

Buying airline tickets too early is no longer a costly mistake, study suggests

When you book can play a big role in the cost of airline tickets -- so when is the best time to book flights? Earlier than you'd think, a new study suggests. Data from CheapAir.com suggests the window of time to buy at the best prices is…

Report says 20% of all 2018 web traffic came from bad bots

Distil Networks published its annual Bad Bot Report this week and announced that 20% of all web traffic in 2018 came from bad bots. The report had other similarly surprising findings regarding the state of bots as well.

Google Chrome will get a Reader Mode for distraction-free desktop browsing

If Google's testing of Reader Mode on the Chrome Canary desktop browser is successful, soon all Chrome users will gain access to this feature. Reader Mode strips away irrelevant content on a webpage for distraction-free browsing.

Worried about your online privacy? We tested the best VPN services

Browsing the web can be less secure than most users would hope. If that concerns you, a virtual private network — aka a VPN — is a decent solution. Check out a few of the best VPN services on the market.

Want to make calls across the internet for less? Try these great VOIP services

Voice over IP services are getting more and more popular, but there are still a few that stand above the pack. In this guide, we'll give you a few options for the best VOIP services for home and business users.